The Blue View - Passage Boredom


Our current passage across the Indian Ocean is quite typical of most of our longer passages. We've had days of pleasant downwind sailing, with sunny, warm days, cool nights, and small following seas, interspersed with some really crappy days with squalls and big seas. A few things have broken, but, so far (knock on wood and thank you Neptune) nothing critical.

We have had some really crappy passages over the years, with nasty weather and a lot of things going wrong. It seems, however, that we have a very short memory for the unpleasant passages and a much longer memory for the good ones. That's a good thing - otherwise we would have sold Nine of Cups to the highest bidder and found another lifestyle a long time ago.

So what do we do to stay occupied during a long passage? Being confined to the boat with real limitations on what we can do would seem to be quite boring after a day or so - let alone weeks or more at sea. While the pace is definitely slower than when we are at anchor or in a marina, we are rarely bored. I'll take you through a typical day.

To begin with, if you read Marcie's blog post about watch-standing a while back, you know we each spend 12 hours every day on watch. Nine of Cups has an autopilot, which means we don't have to stand at the helm steering all this time. Someone does have to remain on watch, paying attention, however. It's the on-watch person's job to keep us on course, keep a lookout for ships and fishing vessels and other obstructions like floating containers, sleeping whales and aircraft debris. That person also keeps an eye out for approaching squalls and thunderstorms, so we have time to reef down, and in general, anything that is out of the ordinary. This all sounds like a lot of activity, but what it really amounts to is being aware of what is going on, taking a good look around every 15 minutes or so, and spending 5 minutes at the top of each hour logging. Of those 12 hours spent on watch, probably only 4 hours are spent doing watch standing activities.


When not on watch, we each get two, 3 hour periods of sleep each night, and a couple of 1 hour naps during our off watches during the day. Adding everything up, that means we each have about 12 hours of extra time on our hands. Here is what I do to occupy myself during those 12 hours.

Meals: 2.5-3 hours. Breakfast is usually something light, but lunch and dinner both take about an hour from the time Marcie starts preparing until I finish cleaning up.

Reefing: .5-1 hour. We usually reef down just before dark and shake it out after dawn. We can't always see a squall coming after dark, and we would much rather lose 8-12 nm each day than have an adrenalin rush in the middle of the night trying to reef the mainsail in the middle of a squall.

Sail adjustments: 0-2 hours. We are sailing downwind, which means frequent jibes as the wind shifts. Each jibe requires moving the whisker pole to the other side, and it still takes us between 30 minutes and an hour to switch it over. On my list of things to do are several thoughts for streamlining the process.

Ablutions: 0.5-1 hour. Most days, this covers shaving, washing, brushing teeth and applying sunscreen. Every 3rd day or so, I take a "kettle" bath. Maybe more info than you wanted?


Fishing: 0.5-3 hours. We usually trail a line. When we don't catch anything, I still spend a little time checking or changing the lure. When we do get a fish, it takes between 1 and 3 hours, depending on the size of the fish and the size of the seas, to land it, gut and fillet it, then clean the mess up and put everything away.

Maintenance: 1-6 hours. Something always, always, always breaks on a passage. Sometimes it is something critical, and I need to work on it until it is fixed or we figure out a temporary jury-rig to get us where we need to go. Most often, it is something less critical that can wait or isn't too difficult to fix underway. Then, there is always routine maintenance that needs doing - stainless to polish, mooring and dock lines that need repair or the ends whipped, tools to lubricate or repair, canvas that needs stitching, cleaning...


Project planning: 0.5-2 hours. I use this time to plan and prioritize the projects that need doing. Currently at the top of the list is to rebuild our aging whisker pole, make some changes to the mast track that will make deploying it more efficient, add a generator to the prop shaft that will generate power as we sail (I've had this on my list for years - I really need to get it done), and repaint our shear stripe (it got dinged up pretty badly when a motor yacht scraped against us in North Haven).

Writing: 2-4 hours. Lots of writing to do - blogs, articles I have promised, and proof/edit Marcie's upcoming book.

Morning cuppa: 0.5 hours. At 0900 each morning, we have a coffee/tea together and talk about any issues from the night before. Marcie discovered a squid lodged in the mainsail this morning, so that was a good part of this morning's conversation - he had to be airborne a good 10 feet out of the water to clear the boom - pretty impressive! We got him unstuck from the sail and tossed overboard.

Morning rounds: 0.5 hours. After our morning cuppa, I take a walk around the decks, getting rid of the night's collection of flying fish and looking for any new or potential problems. Are any lines chafing; any issues with the sails; any hardware lying on the deck? Two days ago, we found a bolt lying in the scupper, and after a brief search, found that it had worked loose from one of the stanchions.

Reading: whatever time is left. We do a lot of reading, especially on night watch. I try to scan the horizon after every couple of pages. Unless the wind picks up or shifts, or the AIS and or radar alarms go off, there usually isn't much else to do.

Total: 24-35 hours/day. There just isn't enough time each day to get everything done. I may have to cut back on my nap time!